- Mon, 2010-04-19 15:33
Ellie Goulding live @ Heaven, Charing Cross, London, 15/04/2010
In the early stages of her career Ellie Goulding was championed chiefly by the tastemakers of the alternative world, such as Huw Stevens and Steve Lamacq. Her debut album Lights, however, has seemed to gravitate as much towards the playlists of Radio 1 than those of its less chart-oriented peers. She might just as easily share fans with CHEW LiPS as she does with Cheryl Cole. In other words, Ellie resists any attempts at easy categorisation, and when it comes to seeing her live the question thus presents itself; is this a pop concert, or an indie gig?
It doesn’t take long for the answer to become clear, and it’s indisputably the former. The set kicks off with the song that gives the album its title: Lights. A backing track plays as Ellie takes to the stage, and as the song swells to its climax she is joined by a choir consisting of her own voice repeatedly layered on top of itself. So dominant is the pre-recorded element of the music that when she picks up her acoustic guitar for the first time it can barely be heard. She is joined by a live drummer and two multi-instrumentalists, but again, the latter can hardly be discerned from what is pumping out of the laptop perched on the side of the stage.
This remains the case throughout the gig, with two primary corollaries. Firstly, there is no room for spontaneity. Constrained as they are by the pre-record’s rigidity, Ellie and the band never stray from the territory of polished pop sheen. Secondly, the army of Gouldings on backing vocals make it hard from time to time to pick out the one who’s actually on the stage in front of us.
There is, however, plenty to make up for these relatively minor complaints. Goulding’s voice, when it can be made out, is every bit as compelling live as it is on the album. The songs demand a great degree of vocal dexterity, and she is more than up to the task. Perhaps more importantly, her enjoyment is clear throughout. Before launching into Under The Sheets she announces to the crowd “I love this song,” and the truth of this statement is obvious to all present from the heartfelt delivery that follows. Of Wished I’d Stayed she tells us “I wrote this song in my bedroom about three years ago,” and therein lies the key to her constantly passionate performance; no matter how sparkling the production may now be, there nonetheless sits at the heart of each of her tunes a core to which she has a real emotional attachment.
Anyone coming to the gig hoping for a rock and roll romp will have been disappointed, but judging by the fact that the crowd are singing along by the first chorus and continue to do so throughout, everyone present knows the score. Ellie Goulding has firmly nailed her colours to the pop mast, but she is a pop act with genuine musical talent and a level of conviction and energy in her performance sufficient to ensure that when the final bars of Starry Eyed fade away the crowd leave with beaming smiles on their faces. That alone is enough to deem the night a success.